British cuisine has been historically maligned, but there’s nothing like a good fish and chips to convert both the skeptical and the ignorant. Incidentally, there are few more reliable ways to turn this iconic dish from good to great than by serving it with mushy peas and tartare sauce.
Here’s the recipe. (Serves 4.)
For the tartare sauce:
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tsp fresh chives, finely chopped
- 2 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tsp English mustard
- 1 tsp gherkins, minced
- 1 tsp capers, minced
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
For the mushy peas:
- 280g (10 oz) frozen green peas
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp butter
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the fish and chips:
- 8 cups rapeseed oil
- 2 lb russet potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise ½-inch thick
- 190 g (6 ¾ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 ¼ cups ice-cold water
- 4 thick cod or haddock fillets, approx. 170g (6 oz) each
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large lemon, cut into wedges
- Malt vinegar for serving (optional)
Pre-prepare the chips:
- Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Blanch the potato sticks in the boiling water for 2–3 minutes and drain.
- Rinse the blanched potato sticks in cold water, then allow them to cool and dry off until you need them again (step 11).
Make the tartare sauce:
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, seasoning with salt and white pepper to taste. Cover the bowl and refrigerate before use. (You can do this up to a day ahead.)
Make the mushy peas:
- Add a shallow amount of water to a pot, lightly salt it, and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Add the peas to the boiling water and cook until on the soft side of tender (3 or 4 minutes).
- Drain the peas and transfer them to a blender or food processor.
- Add the cream and butter to the peas and blend into a thick, chunky paste.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and keep covered until ready to serve.
Make the fish and chips:
- Fill a large cast-iron pot with the oil and set over medium heat until the oil reaches 125°C (260°F).
- Add half of the potato sticks and cook until tender and on the verge of colouring. This should take about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the chips to a baking tray lined with paper towels, draining as much of the excess oil back into the pot as you do so.
- Allow the oil to return to 125°C (260°F) and repeat the previous two steps with the other half of the potato sticks. (Keep the oil hot once you’re done. You will still need it.)
- Put another baking tray in the centre of the oven and heat the oven to 120°C (250°F).
- Increase the temperature of the oil to 160°C (325°F).
- Use paper towels to pat the fish fillets dry and season them with a little salt and pepper.
- In the medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, water, and 1 teaspoon salt into a batter.
- Dip 1 fish fillet into the batter, ensure it’s completely coated, then allow the excess batter to drip off before placing it in the oil. Repeat this step with the other fish fillets.
- As the fish fillets fry, line a large plate with paper towels.
- After a few minutes of frying, use tongs to flip the fish fillets and then allow them to turn crisp and golden-brown all over. This should take about 7 or 8 minutes in total.
- Transfer the fish fillets to the paper towel-covered plate to drain any excess oil, then place them on the baking tray in the oven to keep warm.
- Increase the oil temperature to 190°C (375°F).
- Transfer the pre-cooked chips from the paper towel lined-baking tray to another tray or plate and replace the paper towels on the baking tray.
- Return a small batch of the pre-cooked chips back to the oil and fry for about 2 minutes until they turn golden brown. Then transfer them back to the paper towel-lined baking tray, let the oil temperature return to 190°C (375°F) and repeat this step until all the chips are done.
- Sprinkle the chips with salt and remove the fish from the oven. Serve with tartare sauce, lemon wedges, and malt vinegar.
Can I use frozen fish?
It’s best to use the freshest fish possible, of course, but frozen is also fine. Just ensure that it’s thoroughly defrosted and patted dry with paper towels first.
Can I prepare my batter in advance?
It’s best not to. The shorter the amount of time there is between making the batter and dipping your fish in it, the crispier it will fry.
Why blanch the chips first?
Blanching the chips will pre-soften the middle of the potato, resulting in a much fluffier chip.
Why double-fry the chips?
Double-frying the chips will result in a much crispier exterior.
Why are my fish and chips soggy?
There are a few possible reasons for this, so pay attention to the following points next time to achieve perfectly crispy fish and chips:
- Make sure that your fish and potatoes are as dry as possible before proceeding to the battering and frying steps.
- Keep your oil at the required temperature. The cooler the oil, the longer the fish and chips will need to cook, and the more oil they will absorb.
- To avoid accidentally cooking in oil that’s not hot enough, always remember to check the temperature before putting anything in it. Also, don’t overcrowd the pot. Putting too much cold food into the oil at once will bring the temperature down. That's why it’s important to cook the chips in batches and also to put your fish fillets in the oil one at a time.